Remote teaching. Distance learning. Home schooling. It’s hard! By nature, us teachers are geared for the personal approach; for supporting our learners; for doing everything we can to help them in terms of their emotional wellbeing as much as their education. Right now, most of us are feeling pretty powerless; like Superman without the ability to fly, we feel as though our wings are clipped. But we are frontline fighters, teachers are warriors: just look at how quickly we’ve adapted, restructured our approach, undone everything we’ve learned about teaching. In times of crisis, we are one of the most adaptable professions, and boy, does it show right now!
I think we all took the same initial approach: plenty of lessons about germs and hand washing, talk of being careful because there were some nasty bugs and germs around and warnings to be careful. We even did the bread experiment!
But none of us predicted the world we live in right now. We couldn’t have. Whispers circulated of ‘Are we going to close?’, ‘Should we be getting work ready?’ and then the announcement came. All schools were to shut. Panic began to spread. And then the teachers and the leaders sprang into action and a new curriculum-from-home approach was quickly devised which was fit for purpose. Yes, it’s a work in progress. Yes, we are making mistakes and learning from them. But we are doing our best for the children, as we always have and always will. And whether for you, that looks like working from home, providing care for the key workers’ children, home schooling your own children, or as for some (lucky, lucky me!), a mixture of all three, we are doing the best we know how to do. So here are a few things that my school have put in place which may be helpful to you as we find our feet together 😊
What we’re doing…
My school uses a fantastic app called Seesaw, which is our main form of communication between us and the parents. Whatever you use, the approach will be similar. We are currently (week one of ‘lockdown’) trying to strike a balance between giving sufficient information and not overloading parents in a time of stress and worry, remembering that all people will be handling and dealing with things differently. My school have identified children we felt were ‘vulnerable’, who needed a ‘check in’ from time to time. It was decided that the class teacher should send a breezy ‘check in’ message, to let the children and parents know that we were here and thinking of them if needed. Such contact provides consistency and reminds the children and families that we are still here and still care about them.
It was decided in my setting to send one weekly post on a Monday with the ‘On the boil’ challenges; the key skills we wanted the children to continue to practise: reading, phonic of the week, times table of the week, plus anything useful that cropped up – the Joe Wicks’ workout (tried one last week; still can’t walk), the educational programmes available on television, any useful apps or resources parents can access. We then agreed to post two daily challenges: one Literacy/Project based, one Maths (from Mon-Thurs). Those of you who have read my blog before (thanks Mum) will know that my school uses a Friday as a DAD or Discover and Do Day, providing a chance for children to explore artistic and creative curriculum elements. We decided to post a ‘menu’ option on a Friday, giving the children choices as to what they wanted to do.
The first stumbling block we encountered was realising that our learning for next term (‘Going for Goals’, based around the Tokyo Olympics) would know no longer be appropriate with the cancellation of worldwide events. I spoke to my team and felt that I wanted something to ‘hang’ our learning on for next term, and I thought that what the children need now is a little bit of magic, of hope, so we decided to look at superheroes, focusing initially on ‘The Incredibles’ and also on superheroes in our lives right now, most notably those working on the front line to protect us.
I started as I always did by throwing ideas onto a document under the 6 Areas of Learning and Experience. As a teacher in Wales, this is our bread and butter right now, but for anyone who is unfamiliar the 6 AoLEs are:
Language, Literacy and Communication
Maths and Numeracy
Science and Technology
Health and Wellbeing
I always plan my ideas the same as I write these blogs – I throw everything down on paper and then get rid of anything that sounds a bit rubbish! I wanted to start with looking at ‘The Incredibles’ and encouraging the children to talk to the people in their family, to bring them together and make the most of this time. So our plan for the first week post Easter (very much a work in progress, and I will check in with the results in my next blog!) is:
Challenge 1: Interview a family member about their superpower. Use the 5Ws – what makes them special?
Challenge 2: Design your own superhero family, using The Incredibles for inspiration. What might they wear? Do they have the same superpowers or different ones?
Challenge 3: Write some adjectives to describe your superhero and write them somewhere you wouldn’t normally i.e. chalk on the patio, using bath crayons, marker pen on the windows. Then create a factfile about one of your superheroes.
Challenge 4: Have a go at writing a description in Welsh (could also work in English!) explaining what your superhero wears, likes, etc.
Maths: (Position and Direction)
Challenge 1: Plan a walk around your local area. Draw a map and look out for objects your superhero might need.
Challenge 2: Play Simon Says, practising ‘clockwise’, ‘anticlockwise’, ‘quarter turns’, ‘half turns’, etc.
Challenge 3: Use the map to ask and answer questions and plot routes i.e. how can Superman get to school avoiding the lake?
Challenge 4: Warm up by walking upstairs and counting in 1s, then come down counting in 2s, etc.
Then use Lego/straws/household objects to create a maze and guide a figure through the maze, writing down your instructions as you go.
When it came to planning for our DAD day, I wanted to think of activities the children could have fun doing, which also might encourage them to do things with others, think about others and concentrate on their own wellbeing and health.
All of this, above, is a week’s worth of activities and just a sample of what will (hopefully!) work for our children. However, I am a firm believer that anything and everything can be learning. I am a teacher, but I am also a single parent of a 7 year old and a 3 year old. The 7 year old and I diligently complete the set learning on fractions and descriptive writing and then we bake, we do jigsaw puzzles, we write letters to family, we facetime, we dance and sing (constantly – it’s like an episode of The Voice in my house). And the 3 year old attempts to do all of the above, while making a mess akin to the aftermath of a tornado. In all of this, wellbeing is paramount. Their wellbeing, our wellbeing. Tonight, I am going to read a story to all of ‘my children’ and share it on our Seesaw app; to remind them that I am still their teacher, am still immensely proud of them, and still care about them to the utmost. And then I am going to do the same with my own children.
Be kind. To yourselves, to each other. This is unknown territory for all of us and we are all doing the very best we can. We’re teachers; we always do.